I must say that Rudyard Kipling’s Kim
I must say that Rudyard Kipling’s Kim can be interpreted as a project that articulates the “hegemonic” relations between the colonizer and the colonized during British imperial rule in India. Kipling’s novel explores how Kim embodies the absolute divisions between white and non white that existed in India and elsewhere at a time when the dominantly white Christian countries of Europe controlled approximately 85 percent of the world’s surface.
For Kipling, who believed it was India’s destiny to be ruled by England, it was necessary to stress the superiority of the white man whose mission was torule the dark and inferior races.Kipling effectively conveys this message about the “white man’s burden” and the mindset of colonial India through Kims positioning in the Hindu caste system.Kim, who grows up as an orphan in India and is in no way different from an Indian except for his racial heritage.
For Kipling’s imperialist ideology, it is a narrative strategy to represent Kim’s authority over the native inhabitants of the colony. Kims malleablesocial status is important because it has powerful ramifications about the colonial power-dynamics within a particular historical milieu. The Hindu caste system and various stereotypes also play an important role in Kiplings story.
For example, every person Kim encounters is immediately identified as either a member of a certain caste, religion, or race. Kipling depicts these stereotypes as they emerged out of colonial racial attitudes about Indian society. The descriptions of the Indian people Kim encounters depict each Indian as a very distinctive member of acertain caste. This is what makes Kim so unique as Kiplings British protagonist. Kim has the ability to identify and associate with virtually every inhabitant of India.
For this reason, Kim is very special, and I believe will serve some greater purpose as the novelensues. Kim is so unique because during the era of Indian colonialism, the British immigrants belief was that only two societies inhabited India: white and non white. Kim however, had an intimate bicultural knowledge to communicate on both sides of thedivide–the British colonial officials on one side and the Indians who had no direct dealing with their colonial rulers, on the other. Thus, Kim has the potential to serve as a vital link between two very different cultural worlds.
Kipling wrote Kim at a time of rising Indian nationalism, a time when the relationship between the empire and colony had started to change, and when British rule was being overtly questioned. Hence, it is not surprising that we find Kipling exposing allaspects of British colonialism through Kims encounters with such a wide variety of people.From the beginning we see Kim learning about diverse Indian ways through his friendship with Mahbub Ali for whom he “executed commissions by night on thecrowded housetops,” his travels with the holy Lama, and interaction with the natives during his travels. Mahbub Ali initiates Kim into the “great game” of the secret service. The spiritual Lama provides him with a sense of maturity and introduces him to new ideasand aspirations.
And Kim’s own curiosity for learning, his keen sense of observation and spirit of adventure instill in him self-reliance and resourcefulness. In consequence, by learning to manipulate people to his own advantage, Kim manages to earn his living and procure food for the Lama and himself. Because his early exposure to natives and their customs taught him the subtleties of Indian life: he knows the “breed” of farmers of theland; he understands the distinctions of caste and realizes that the Lama is the “most holy of holy men” because he is “above all castes.” Kim’s grasp of Indian life teaches him to process the native culture whereby he knows its strengths and weaknesses; to react with cleverness when the situation demands, appropriate the useful and dismiss the rest.
Sowell-versed is he with the Indian ethos that when the need arises, he even learns to “think” let alone speak in the vernacular. Kim’s knowledge of the various Indian dialects is particularly useful. It provides him with the ability to translate and overcome the tremendous handicap that colonialrulers felt in their inability to translate for which they had to depend on the “unreliable” natives.
In this way, Kim’s ability to translate represents the colonizer’s acquisition of a highly useful device for the Empire. Although Kim’s knowledge and understanding of the native culture is Kipling’s strategy toposition Kim’s superiority, he makes it seem like a “natural” acquisition for a precocious boy whose spirit for adventure motivates him in the pursuit of knowledge. Hence, Kim’s ability to understand the natives and assimilate with them endears him to one and all who call him “little friend of the world.”Bibliography: